Bush White House Deadlocked Over Iraq I

Bush White House Deadlocked over Iraq

I saw Senators Biden and Lugar on the Lehrer Newshour on Monday, and I think Senator Biden intimated an explanation for some of what is happening in Iraq. He said he thought there might be a power stuggle between the office of Vice President Dick Cheney and Colin Powell’s State Department over Iraq policy.

Such a power struggle is plausible. When the Coalition Provisional Authority is dissolved on June 30, the Pentagon risks losing a great deal of influence in Iraq. The Department of Defense will still have troops, but US policy in Iraq will be executed by the Department of State through the huge embassy in Baghdad. The Department of Defense managed to retain control of the disbursement of the $18 bn. in reconstruction aid voted by Congress, which gives it continued power in Iraq, but Powell may be trying to get control of that money.

A crucial transition is only three months away. Yet we have no idea who the American ambassador will be. We have no idea to whom sovereignty will be passed exactly. We have no idea how the US will fight two guerrilla insurgencies in Iraq.

As I read him Biden is passing on what he has heard, that the reason for this gridlock is an internal power struggle within the Bush administration, which has paralyzed decision-making.

If so, it may be that certain forces within the administration took advantage of the lack of a clear reporting line to launch the assault on Muqtada al-Sadr, hoping to effect a fait accompli and forestalling any later State Department attempt to treat with him. If this interpretation is correct, the retreating Department of Defense may sow a lot of land mines for hapless State before June 30.

Biden and Lugar also made it clear that they are not being consulted by the White House on Iraq, and, indeed, it has been a year since they could even get an appointment to see Bush about it. Imagine how locked out the American public is!

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